The Baseball Hall of Fame holds its induction ceremony this weekend on its grounds in Cooperstown, New York. There is no greater illustration of the difficulty of being a good enough baseball player to earn induction than the fact that no one was elected in the Baseball Writers Association of America balloting this year.
That fact is controversial in and of itself, with a significant voting bloc of obstinate members, some of whom have not regularly covered baseball in a long time, standing in the way of induction for many of the greatest players from recent years.
It's not easy to play your way into the "automatic" benchmarks like 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, or for pitchers, 300 wins.
Orioles fans have not seen a Hall of Fame induction since Cal Ripken Jr. was elected in 2007, and unless Mike Mussina is elected in the next few years and is chosen to wear an Orioles cap (which is another subject for another day), it will be a long time until another Oriole might be selected. Do any current Orioles stand a chance of playing their way into the Hall of Fame by the time their careers are over?
This post assumes that reaching the automatic benchmarks is the only way a player will earn induction. It's possible that as the electorate changes, more lenient standards will evolve, especially for players in the PED testing era. Walks may start to mean more than hitting arbitrary numbers of hits.
It's also possible, if even more unlikely, that someone on the Orioles could have a strong enough peak to warrant consideration.
MLB seasons: 8
One thing about making it into the Hall of Fame is that you probably need to start young. Markakis had this going for him at one time, making his major league debut and getting significant playing time in his rookie season at the age of 22. He had 516 hits before he turned 25 years old and recorded 188 and 187 hits in the next two seasons, meaning that he only would have needed another eleven seasons like that to reach 3,000 hits some time in the 2023 season.
There was a time where Markakis was hitting a lot of doubles. This could have been his calling card. 600 doubles is "automatic" in the sense that the top 14 doubles hitters of all time have 601+ and they are, or should be, Hall of Famers. Pete Rose, who is banned, and Barry Bonds, who may as well be, are the only non-Hall of Famers.
Markakis averaged about 41 doubles per season over his first five seasons, meaning he would have only needed another ten seasons like that to get to some magic number. Once, there was hope Markakis' doubles would turn into home runs. He now no longer even hits doubles at any sort of remarkable pace. Barring a significant improvement in his 30s that would allow him to remain in the game for another decade, he has no chance.
Age: 27 (turning 28 on August 1)
MLB seasons: 8
Jones made his MLB debut in 2006, getting small amounts of time at the big league level in Seattle in both 2006 and 2007 before being traded to the Orioles as part of the Erik Bedard trade. It's barely even worth considering him as a 3,000 hit player because he does not even have 1,000 hits. Since 2010, he's had a per 162 game average of 182 hits, which is a pace that would only take him 16.5 seasons to reach 3,000 - if he played 162 games and if he continued to hit 182 a season.
Adding the hits he got before age 24 shaves that down to a little more than 15.5 seasons, meaning if he maintained that pace, he'd get 3,000 hits around age 39. There's always an outside chance, but it's hard to get to 3,000. Even the active player closest to 3,000 hits (Alex Rodriguez) might not, though there are plenty of other reasons Rodriguez's candidacy might be torpedoed.
Could Jones end up with 500 home runs? Sure, if he has another 12 seasons and change where he hits 32 home runs like he did last season. He's on pace for 35 this year, which would get him there in 10 seasons and change, counting this one. That would probably happen around his 38th birthday.
Jones has two Gold Gloves and has been selected to three All-Star teams. Voters have liked that kind of hardware, along with MVP awards. He could earn more of the first two, but probably not enough to impress the curmudgeons.
MLB seasons: 2
The young Machado, as MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli likes to refer to him, has been, through his first season and change of big league action, everything that Orioles fans could have hoped for and more. He has 135 hits through 104 games of the 2013 season, putting him on pace for about 210 hits on the season.
Count the 50 he notched in his rookie season at the age of 19 and Machado only needs 13 more seasons at the same pace as this season to record 3,000 hits. This would happen when he was 34 years old. Machado is so young that his pace could fall off a little and he would still have a chance, but even so, the odds are not in any player's favor to keep up such production for 15 seasons. That's what makes Hall of Famers what they are. They are the greatest.
Machado could certainly end up being one of the greatest. He's already getting named along players like Al Kaline as far as greatest players do to things before turning 21. We get to watch his beginning, and hopefully the whole rest of what will look more and more like a Hall of Fame career as well.
MLB seasons: 6
Hard as it is to believe, Davis only had 77 MLB home runs prior to this season. If he hit home runs at the same pace as the 2012 season, it would take him 12.8 seasons (including this one) to reach 500 home runs. He would be 40 years old at that time. Davis is a late-bloomer, and those sorts of players don't get into the Hall of Fame unless they keep going at a high level into their 40s. Again, players do not tend to do this.
Davis is on pace to end this season with 57 home runs. That would only take him 6.5 more seasons to reach the 500 home run plateau at that pace. If he returned to hitting 33 home runs per year after this hypothetical 57 home run season, it would take him 11.2 more seasons to hit 500 home runs. He would be 39.
That's not going to happen, but it would be kind of awesome if it did.
MLB seasons: 5
You probably just laughed at seeing Tillman's name on this list. That's just how hard it is to be a pitcher and be good enough for the Hall of Fame. 300 wins? Tillman had 16 career wins heading into this season. He had thrown a total of 266.2 innings across parts of four seasons - he was never good enough to stick for a full season until now. He's already at his career high in MLB innings with 126.2. He never threw more than 100 at the MLB level before this.
Tillman has started 21 games and has won 13. Barring injury, he will make every start this season and should end up with 32 starts. If he keeps winning games at this pace, he'd be a 20-game winner (rounding up). He would only have to average 20 wins per season for another 13.2 seasons to get to the 300 win mark, meaning he would be 39 years old.
Tillman started young, but he wasn't good enough at that young age to really get a leg up into this discussion. On the other hand, Randy Johnson hung on until he was 45, and didn't have his first 200+ inning season until he was 26. The Big Unit's first great season was at age 29, so maybe...
The last Orioles 20-game winner was Mike Boddicker in 1984.
If Markakis somehow managed to play until age 40 (the 2024 season), get 3,000 hits, retired, and then was inducted into the Hall of Fame five years after he retired, that would be the year 2030. I will turn 47 years old later that year. So will Markakis.
All of which is to say that, whether or not Mussina gets inducted into the Hall of Fame, we're going to be waiting a while for the next Oriole. Maybe one of our current favorites will beat the odds and do so. Just don't hold your breath.